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Organizing 101: Creating the perfect bookcase!

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

A room without books is like a body without a soul - Cicero

Both my husband and I are prolific readers. We have multiple bookcases scattered about our 2 bedroom apartment, shelves packed to the brim with hardcovers, paperbacks, graphic novels and more. Either of us can't walk out of a used bookstore without purchasing at least one book each. Everyone has their collector item and for us, it's books.

When we decluttered our space for the first time as a "pandemic project" the book category was the one my husband dreaded. He had a sentimental attachment to almost every single book that lined our shelves and told me before we started that he would have a hard time parting with anything.

By the end of the exercise, we had 3 boxes of books we were willing to part with, the majority of them coming from my husband's collection.

I never once forced him to part with something. I let him work through the stacks of books at his own pace and with his criteria for what he cherished and what he was okay to part with. By the end of the day, he felt in control and happy with every decision he made regardless of the outcome.

As an Organizer, his experience and the positive association with the task is the reaction we always strive to achieve for all our clients, no matter the item/space.


Books, for most people, are a staple item in their homes. They are easy to accumulate, and can sometimes take up quite a bit of real estate, especially in smaller spaces.

Regardless of how many you keep/donate, if the books are not organized in a way that is both stylish and functional you will find yourself back to the cluttered mess you had before in a few months.

Bookshelves, either mounted directly to a wall or large bookcases are great storage solutions in common areas such as a living room or family room to keep items from accumulating on flat surfaces such as a table or the floor. As practical as these pieces are, they can also become too cluttered, making it difficult to access or find anything you want.

Outlined below are five (5) ways an Organizer can help balance the practicality of bookshelves with the visually appealing look of uncluttered space to create a functional and organized home for your books.

1. Organizing Books by Colour

  • One of the most popular methods of organizing books, especially for children

  • Often referred to as the "rainbow" or colour-blocking method of organizing.

  • It can offer a very clean, uncluttered look to your space.

  • Very beneficial to visual people, remembering a book by the look/colour

  • Young children can help with "re-stocking" the shelves with their books

2. Organizing Books Alphabetically

  • Also known as the "library system" for organizing books.

  • Can be done by the author's last name or Book Title.

  • Can also add additional layers to the system (i.e. by author name & then title)

  • A great solution if you have multiple books from the name author in your collection

3. Organizing Books by Subject / Genre

  • This is great for large collections or book collectors

  • To prevent overcrowding on the shelves, you can display books both vertically and horizontally and/or add in accessories (i.e. plants, photos etc.) to create "balance"

  • Use labels on the shelves to help identify the subject/genres,

  • Once the books are assigned a subject/genre you can then organize them alphabetically.

4. Organizing Books by Size

  • This can be done from biggest to smallest or vice versa.

  • can also be done by width (thin to thick or thick to thin).

  • Shelves can be interspersed with accessories to create space and add balance.

5. Organize Books by Read vs Unread

  • Great for people who have many "to-be-read" piles scattered about the home.

  • Can add further sorting under this category (i.e. colour, alphabetical, genre).


When it comes to organized bookshelves, there is no right or wrong way. All five of the above suggestions can be combined in a variety of ways to create your personalized way of accessing your favourite books.

A key rule of thumb to remember if adding accessories to your shelves is that it should be 2/3 books and 1/3 accessories. This will help create balance and not make the shelves look too cluttered and congested.

Finally, if in doubt, take a step back and snap a photo of the shelves. A more distanced view of the shelves will create a different perspective and allow you to make any adjustments.

🤞🏻 Remember organizing is a process so completing these exercises in small, digestible chunks will help keep you motivated, inspired, and positive about reclaiming your space!


Ready to get started?

So am I! Please check out my services to find the perfect organizing package for you!

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About the Author: Brittany Smith lives in Ottawa, Canada with her husband and feline furbaby Zoey. She is a Certified Professional Organizer, Owner, and Founder of Control the Chaos, a Professional Organizing business that provides personalized in-home, virtual and digital organizing services aimed at transforming anyone's chaos into calm.


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